When junior Alexandrea Yoong approached mathematics and computer science professor Doug Ryan about beginning a club for those interested in the field of computer science, she was still unsure of what mission statement would define the club.

However, Yoong was sure that she wanted to find a way for this proposed club to encourage women and girls specifically, advocating for the influential roles that are available in the computer science profession. Yoong was especially surprised to find statistics that revealed 30 years ago, 30 percent of women entering the workforce said they planned on pursuing a career in computer science. Today, that number has dropped to 18 percent.

When the two primary focuses of the club were defined, Ryan directed Yoong to Professor Shereen Khoja, who for the past three years directed the Girls in Computer Science Camp, held on Pacific’s campus. Khoja had received a grant to fund the camp for three consecutive years, encouraging girls to follow their interests in computer science.

Yoong is still collaborating with Khoja to get the women in computer science club up and running, as it was founded just this spring. Like any other Pacific club or organization, a membership of seven is required, and Yoong feels that this requirement is possible to meet after results showed that nine students expressed interest in the field initially, and there are bound to be more.

“It’s not that our club is limited to girls,” said Yoong. Major is not of importance either; Yoong herself will be graduating next year with a degree in biology.

All that is desired of someone expressing interest in this new club is a passion for computer science and a desire “to develop a supportive community that advocates for equal opportunity in computer science,” according to Yoong.

Yoong also feels that Khoja, on her own, has been successful in trying to achieve these goals thus far. Still, the club’s presence seemed needed to Yoong.

“I also feel like it’s up to students to promote that,” she said.

Yoong also hopes that this club will advocate for careers in the computer science field by disproving some of the stereotypes associated with it.

“It doesn’t mean you are a gamer or not social,” said Yoong. “It can be whatever you want it to be.”

Yoong added that computer science is “also very creative,” in that it is innovative, constantly looking to improve or fill a need that has not been thought of before.

These ideas will hopefully help Yoong and Khoja with beginning recruitment in the fall. But they will also be recruiting the younger generation, starting with a career fair that they will be attending on April 10 at Meadow Springs Middle School in Hillsboro.

Yoong explained that the career fair will be a great opportunity to get girls interested in computer science at a younger age so that when they reach high school, they will be more prepared to take courses in that discipline, therefore giving them more preparation for college as well.

With enough advertising and larger membership, Yoong hopes that next year the women in computer science club will be able to host a campus-wide conference.

For more information about this new club, please contact Alexandrea Yoong at yoon2725@pacificu.edu or professor Shereen Khoja at shereen@pacificu.edu.

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